EcuaExperience: Pre-Medical and Volunteer Programs

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Help, Learn and Discover is a student-driven volunteer organization that offers four week Pre-medical and Volunteer programs in Ecuador. These programs provide students with three main opportunities: to Help those less fortunate, to Learn first-hand knowledge about the medical field, and to Discover the amazing diversity of Ecuador. In the Help component, students use fundraised money to participate in a specific large-scale volunteer project. For example, in 2012 we built 21 homes for underprivileged families in a rural community called Pallatanga.

Students work alongside local families and are able to see the homes develop while integrating themselves into the community. In the optional Learn component, students shadow leading doctors and health professionals through eight different wards in a hospital setting.

We conclude the program with the Discover component, where students embark on an 11-day tour through the jungles, rainforests, highlands and beaches of Ecuador.

Questions & Answers

Most of our students are 18+. However, we have had students under 18 that need their parents to co-sign their contract.


based on 226 reviews
  • Impact 9.7
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.1
  • Value 9.7
  • Safety 9.7
Showing 31 - 45 of 226
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My Month with HLD

Hi guys, I know that most reviews here are extremely positive and I don't want to be a bummer here but my month with HLD wasn't at all what I expected or paid for. This trip comes out to about 7 thousand dollars at the end of it and there are other programs that have the same experience for way cheaper. Also, the owners of the program are very unsupportive of you if you do not have a specific type of personality. The volunteer week was great however for a great amount of time, we didn't have running water to wash our hands or flush our toilets. It was frustrating. The medical rotations part was decent because the med tutors were great, however they also felt terrified of their boss all the time because he was so vile and cruel. He has a god like complex and he has an ego bigger than the country itself. I spent so much money and had so much hope for this trip and it turned out to be a disappointment. I would look into other programs before I look into HLD.

No, I don't recommend this program
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The Most Rewarding Vacation

This trip is the perfect balance between hard, rewarding volunteer work, the excitement of touring a new country and carefree relaxing fun- my trip hadn't even ended before I started planning next year's return! This year I did the volunteer trip, and I will never forget the names or faces of those who we had the chance to build houses both for and with- the community of Jama will forever have a special place in my heart! I have so much respect for the way that this project approaches their volunteer work- we work side by side with those recieving the houses. It gave us a chance to immerse ourself in a new culture, make new friends, but most importantly to really gain an appreciation for why we travelled so many miles and spent so many hours fundraising to complete this project. We weren't simply gifting the community, but rather planting a seed for future sustainability.
As if that wasn't life changing enough, we travelled all throughout Ecuador, from volcanoes to beaches through the amazon and between some of the most unique cities and town I have ever seen. Everyday was filled with new activities and the chance to experience Ecuador's fantastic culture (not to mention great food!) Te amo Ecuador, and thank you forever to Ecuaexperience! .

Yes, I recommend this program
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Incredible, life-changing experience!!

I had the most unbelievable experience participating on an HLD ecuaexperience program and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to travel, make a difference, learn about healthcare, or all of the above!

The 'help' aspect of the program was such an incredible opportunity. To be able to build houses for those in need and really make a difference in the lives of the people of Ecuador was such a rewarding experience and so much fun as well!

The 'learn' part of the program where we got to observe and learn different skills in the hospitals was so cool! I got to observe so many interesting surgeries, interact with patients in the emergency room, learn different skills and procedures, and so much more! I gained so much from this and it was such a unique opportunity that is hard to find anywhere else.

Then, there's the 'discover' portion, which was so incredible as well! Ecuador is such an amazing, beautiful, country with so much to offer. To be able to explore this country, learn about the culture, and participate in so many amazing activities like canyoning through waterfalls, staying in the jungle, and visiting volcanoes, was really amazing.

The experiences I had and the people I met on this program had such an incredible impact on me, and it really was life-changing!

Yes, I recommend this program
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The Full Package

I found HLD by randomly researching different abroad, premed, volunteer programs online and I am so incredibly grateful that I decided to go with this one. The program's three components, helping, learning and discovering are really everything you could ever want in a trip. The traveling week was truly amazing. From the relaxing hot springs to the exciting hike through the Amazon jungle, there was never a dull moment. I made some very close friends on this trip who I am grateful to share these memories with. The volunteer week was very rewarding. It was hard work, but knowing the significant impact these new houses will have on the families in Jama makes every second worth it. We had the opportunity to go to a community where hundreds of families were living in tents because their homes were destroyed in the earthquake. Playing with the kids and seeing the pure joy on their faces despite all the hardships they are going through, truly put my life into perspective. Although the discover and help weeks were amazing, my favorite portion of the trip was the medical rotations. I have never had the opportunity to observe surgeries, take vitals on patients, go to a cadaver lab and learn hands-on skills like drawing blood and performing sutures before this trip. I learned so much from the amazing medical student tutors who were very friendly and informative. At school, sometimes I find myself doubting my career path while I am drowning in work, but this experience opened my eyes that all this hard work will be worth it in the end. I learned so much about the medical field on this trip, but also about myself. I would recommend this program to anyone!!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Trip of a Lifetime

I went on a program with help learn and discover in the summer of 2016. I can honestly say it is the most amazing experience I have had while travelling abroad. Each aspect of my trip was in incredible the guides were exceptional and so helpful. Something I found special about this trip was that all the leaders and guides were so passionate about the program which was really inspiring and made it so much more fun for everyone else. On my volunteer portion of my trip we stayed in Jama, Ecuador and helped a community build homes after an earthquake had impacted their city. Volunteering with this program is so rewarding because you become so involved in the community but at no point in the entire program did I feel unsafe. My favourite part of the trip was how close you become with the people you travel with. You make such great friends and it is definitely an experience I will never forget.

Yes, I recommend this program
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One of the Best Things I Have Done for Myself

I will always consider myself incredibly lucky to have stumbled upon Help, Learn & Discover. I was looking for a medical, volunteer experience in a Spanish-speaking country, so when a spontaneous Google search introduced me to HLD, it felt meant to be. I took part in the pre-medical program and each component of my 21 days spent in Ecuador was amazing. I can sincerely say that the only part of the trip I disliked was having to say goodbye to the incredible people, culture, and adventures I fell in love with.

The Help component was one of the most rewarding parts of the trip. We spent a week in Jama, Ecuador working with the community to prepare concrete blocks for their new homes to sit upon. Although the recent earthquake made our living conditions less than ideal, I always felt taken care of and appreciated. Surprise “bun” breaks at the work site and evening trips to Canoa Beach were the perfect breaks from the hard, but rewarding, work. Lots of tears were shed on our last day in Jama when the families blessed us with gifts and lots of hugs. I am so happy to have played a part in giving twenty deserving families a new home.

The Learn component of the program allowed me to gain a unique perspective into the exciting world of healthcare. The medical students and physicians we shadowed were not only very informative, they were funny and very easy to get along with. I especially enjoyed the evening activities, which allowed us to learn how to draw blood, do sutures, give a physical examination, and take vitals.

Thinking about the Discover component of the trip still brings a smile to my face. I made a point of not researching any of the cities listed on the itinerary beforehand, and I am SO happy with that decision. Each day of the travel week was packed with a new and exciting adventure. From dancing on the bus, to fireworks around a campfire, to cruising around in a party bus, HLD incorporated a thoughtful surprise into each destination.

My only regret is not having signed up for a longer trip. If you have any doubts about signing up for next summer, please DON’T! It will be one of the best things you do for yourself! Everyone I met through HLD was so kind and helpful, especially the staff at 593 Hostel Boutique and our charming bus driver, Rubén. Lastly, I would like to give a big shout out to the two men responsible for HLD, Juan and José. I will always be grateful to them for reminding me that helping others is one of the best ways to live our lives.

Yes, I recommend this program
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I already want to go back!!!

I challenge anyone to find an experience that can top the one I had with Help, Learn & Discover. I can’t remember a single moment on this trip when I wasn’t smiling or laughing constantly, and looking back, I have nothing but fond memories. The 3 aspects of the trip encompassed absolutely everything I could have dreamed of (plus more!), and I know I’ll remember these experiences for the rest of my life. Without sounding too cliché, you truly will learn so much about yourself on this trip, and you will return with a new perspective on life.

The Help portion was incredible. It was truly humbling to work alongside the community in Jama to build homes for the most deserving families you will ever meet. The locals were so grateful for everything that we did, and knowing that you have a made a difference in their lives is an indescribable feeling.

The Learn portion of this trip—the medical rotations—was so cool. Not only will you be scrubbing into surgeries and literally watching operations over the surgeons’ shoulders, but you will also interact with patients in the Emergency Room, partake in medical hands-on learning sessions, and all throughout you will have medical tutors teaching and explaining things to you. During this portion of the trip, you see what the medical profession is really about. Before HLD, I thought I was interested in medicine. But after participating in this portion of the trip, I now know without a doubt that this is the field that I love!

The final component of this trip, the Discover portion, was one you will never forget. Ecuador is absolutely spectacular; from the rainforest to the coast to the volcanoes and mountains, this country truly has it all. It’s hard to believe how much of Ecuador you get to experience on this trip, but somehow HLD manages it!

On top of the trip itself, you will meet people who will change your life. This is one of my favourite aspects of this trip. Everyone you meet—from the program directors, to the tour guides, to the volunteers alongside you, to the leaders, and everyone in between—will impact your life. I started my 28 days in Ecuador with a group of strangers, but left Ecuador with a new family.

I can definitely vouch for HLD and all the experiences that come along with it. Go on this trip, and I promise you won’t regret it!

Yes, I recommend this program
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The Trip of a Lifetime

I don't even know where to begin when it comes to telling people about Help Learn and Discover. Everything about the trip was absolutely spectacular, and I don't think I'll ever forget some of the experiences I've had. I met amazing people, gained valuable experience in a unique learning environment, and travelled to parts of South America that took my breath away all accompanied with the priceless satisfaction of improving the lives of those in need.

I would highly recommend HLD to anyone looking to volunteer abroad. The passion for helping others that staff and organizers express is inspirational to say the least, and to see how far the organization has come and how many people they have helped is incredible. It's a wonderful feeling got be a part of such an organization, and I'm very proud whenever I tell people about the work the company has done. Especially after seeing the damage and destruction that the earthquake in April caused to parts of Ecuador, it's clear that many people still need help and HLD does just that by building sustainable houses.

I was part of one of the the pre-med trips this past summer, and the experience you get as part of the pre-med learning component is next to impossible to find anywhere in Canada. We were actually inside the operating rooms, or conversing with patients in ER, or gaining first-hand practical experience that would otherwise only be taught in med schools. These experiences are all extremely valuable to anyone considering medicine, as it was a lot like a trial run of what med school and practicing as a physician would be like, minus the stress of applications and grades and what not. You learn a lot, but in a fun and engaging environment.

The final component of the trip, which involved travelling around Ecuador with options to travel to Galapagos and Peru was one of my favourite travelling experiences, and for someone my age I've travelled a lot. HLD knows all of the best sites and places to visit in Ecuador. You see a very large portion of the country in a relatively small period of time. From snowcapped mountains, to the amazon, then to the beach and back. I had a hard time keeping up with the beauty of the country, and was grateful that I chose HLD to show me all the amazing parts of Ecuador.

Help Learn and Discover gave me an amazing experience, looking back I don't remember a time when I was dissatisfied or upset. Anyone looking for any volunteer experience should seriously look into HLD.

Yes, I recommend this program
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HLD Till I Die

My time in Ecuador was truly life changing. I made great friends, got to travel all over the country and make a difference in peoples lives, and I was able to gain some hands on experience in a hospital setting throughout my medical rotations. HLD does a phenominal job at sticking to the 3 words it stands for: Help, Learn and Discover. This program has managed to incorporate these three things to give students the best time of their lives whether they come for 17 days, 21 days, or 28 days. I did the 28 day program and couldn't be any happier and satisfied with my experience.

Help - this was by far my favorite part of the trip. I got to make personal connections with the locals and the community we were working with while helping them build their homes. This year was really important to me and the others I think because of the earthquake that happened months ago. It affected many communities, so volunteering and working on site meant so much more to us and the community. The work is physically demanding and fun and I wish it was longer than a week because I could spend the whole month there, but the locals were very welcoming and all of the hard work we did is really paying off and helping the program move one step closer to completing the project.

Learn - since I was in the 28 day program I got to do 2 weeks of medical rotations. The tutors were awesome and they provided us with a lot of valuable information and made sure that we were learning and enjoying all of the activities that they had planned for us. We learned how to take vitals, how to read an ECG, how to do CPR, how to stitch, how to take blood and many more things. We got to sit in on surgeries and work with patients in the emergency room. My favourite part was the fact that we were able to scrub in and watch surgeries in the operating room and ask our tutors any question that we had and they were always ready to help and explain. This part of the trip was very important for me because it really helped me find areas in the medical field that I enjoyed, which will further help me once I start applying to medical school. This part of the trip exceeded my expectations and I couldn't have imagined anything better.

Discover - This was another one of my favorite times. I really enjoyed traveling around from city to city and staying at places that I didn't even know existed. Ecuador is a beautiful country and luckily we got to see a lot of cool things. From water falls to tubing down the Napo river, hiking in the Amazon jungle, and horse backing riding to active volcanos, it truly was some of the best times of my life. The night life was always so fun and all of the hostels we stayed at were also amazing and made the experience that much better.

Taking a look back at the four weeks I spent with HLD, I can't say a single thing that I wish we had done differently. I have made life long friends on this trip and I can't express enough how much this trip changed my life. the leaders, activities, and experiences were all perfect. I think I smiled 24 hours a day on this trip! I definitely recommend it to everyone!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Life Changing Month with HLD

Help, Learn, and Discover has made such an impact on my life and will continue to influence my life beyond the conclusion of the program. The program does an amazing job of giving students a taste of three areas that I am very passionate about.

The Help aspect of the program was a truly life changing experience. Especially after the earthquake, it was incredible to experience all of the students and community coming together to rebuild in the community of Jama. The fact that all of the money was fundraised by the students makes this experience even more rewarding knowing that we were able to make a difference both financially and physically at the worksite. The worksite conditions were one of the most impactful parts of the volunteer program. It was really eye opening to see how the members of the community had been living since the earthquake happened and it really made the experience so much more rewarding knowing that we were not living in conditions above the community. We were living in tents without good showers or wifi, just as how the community has been living for months. It really made the students and community members come together during this week of volunteering. The days of volunteering were always hard work, but very worth it. We did lots of concrete mixing, sanding, and painting of the shipping containers that were used to create earthquake-proof homes.

The Learn portion allows students to experience so many areas of the medical field to broaden their scope of knowledge and help them to decide if medicine is the right decision for them, and further, which area of medicine interests them the most. The tutors are incredibly knowledgable and helpful throughout all of the rotations and the evening activities. A mock medicine interview, stitching, ECG, and blood draw are just a few of the activities that are done in addition to shadowing in many different wards of the hospital such as the ER, OR, radiology, and sports medicine. The students are able to get a lot of hands-on experience and see so many cool things up close in the hospitals! The variety of healthcare programs also allows you to tailor your trip to your interests by offering pre-medical, pre-dental, and physio programs! I have only experienced how amazing the pre-medical program is, but I have heard from other students that the pre-dental and physio programs are incredible as well!

The Discover portion was a blast! We did everything from tubing down the Napo river, hiking in the jungle, waterfall rappelling, swinging at the edge of the world, and salsa dancing! Each different part of the country we went to had something unique to offer and had it's own individual beauty. All of the activities we did were so much fun and we all learned so much about the culture and country of Ecuador. I was also able to to an extra week to the Galapagos which was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. The Galapagos islands are incredibly beautiful with so much biodiversity and beautiful landscapes. We were able to snorkel with sea turtles, sharks, tropical fish, and the list goes on! We also went kayaking and experienced some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen and were able to see a giant tortoise sanctuary. The Galapagos is definitely a must-see if you're going to be travelling to South America!

I have nothing else to say about this program except that it is incredible! The owners Juan and Jose are always making sure to give the students the best experience possible and are tons of fun to travel with for the month. Definitely check out HLD if you have been considering travelling abroad!

Yes, I recommend this program
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It was decent

I had a decent experience. The hostel we stayed at was nice and we were well fed. The travelling portion was pretty cool, we went to many places. However it was kind of expensive because we ended up paying for a lot of activities out of our own pocket which wasn't cool. The volunteer portion was rewarding, however the water went out on us for days and we had no water to wash our hands with or shower or even flush the toilets. We weren't well taken care of there.
The worst part of the program was the fact I did physio. I found the program leader to be conceited and extremely unhelpful. There was no sense of support, and they put us on the spot and was overall rude. My friend and I cried several times when we got back to the hostel because of it. They didn't seem to care about anyone else. Even the med tutors who would teach us would constantly talk about how cruel they found this individual to be.
I was also forgotten at the airport.
Anywhooooo, it was nice to help the families of Jama. They are incredibly sweet people.

No, I don't recommend this program
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A life changing month!

I did the 28 day pre-med program with HLD and it was more than I ever imagined. It was incredible.

For the help portion, we worked in Jama to build new homes that were destroyed by the earthquake. The community was amazing, everyone was extremely welcoming and loving. The day we left the community was the hardest, tears were shed because we had all had such a great time working together, regardless of the language barrier. The kids were resilient and were so energetic and excited to play with us. We worked hard, we were drenched in sweat most of the time, we were dirty and smelly and it was the most rewarding feeling in the world.

For the learn portion, I was extremely surprised and impressed with how hands on we were and how much I learned. The med tutors were extremely helpful (and funny) and they taught us ALOT. Everyone was always willing to teach, even the surgeons would walk us through the surgeries we were able to sit in on which was such a good learning experience. HLD really does give you insight on what it's like to be in medicine and it reinforced the fact I do want to be a doctor one day. I highly recommend this program for anyone considering medicine as a career, or even nursing!!

For the discover portion, words can't begin to explain the amazing memories we made together. Everyday was filled with activities, laughs, jokes and lots of dancing!! We went to so many different places in the beautiful Ecuador and we were able to experience the culture as well as have fun. There isn't a day that isn't jam packed with exciting things to do.

HLD has definitely impacted my life in so many positive ways and if you have the chance to go to Ecuador with any of the programs they offer, go!!

Ecuador is very dear to my heart now and I hope to go back, for the people and the country.

Yes, I recommend this program

The most unique experience of my life!

I love to travel and discover new things. This trip has allowed me to do so much. Not only did I get to travel to the most beautiful places in Ecuador, I also got to help build houses in Jama and got to learn a lot about a doctor's job. I went tubing down the river to my hotel in the jungle, I played soccer with the children in Jama after a long day of hard work and I got to see multiple surgeries, such as an open-heart surgery. There is no other trip that offers you as much as this one. Everyone, from the doctors at the hospital to the staff of HLD, has been very generous and hospitable. I got back to Canada a couple days ago, and I can't stop thinking about this wonderful and unique experience. I feel like Quito is a second home, and I only wish to go back next year to see all my friends again. Do not hesitate to go on this trip. It is completely worth it <3

How can this program be improved?
I can tell that HLD is 11 years old. Everything is very well organized and very special. There's nothing really that I would change.
Yes, I recommend this program
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HLD offers it all

I signed up for HLD about a month and a half before I left so it was really last minute but based on the reviews it looked like an awesome program and I wasn't disappointed!
My program began with medical rotations followed by a week of traveling, a week of volunteering and then a final week of medical rotations. I also added on a week in the Galapagos. The schedule changes for each group that attends HLD but Juan and Jose ensure that every group has an awesome time!
I was the only one on my trip in the pre-medical program who already works as a health care professional but the "Learn" portion of the trip still benefited me as I had the chance to see the hospitals and converse with the medical student tutors about different patient conditions that I had seen in my practice.
The "Discover" portion was a whirlwind adventure. I was absolutely amazed by every city I visited! We did tons of different activities from hanging out in natural hot springs, dancing and hiking in the jungle to waterfall rappelling and extreme tubing! There is no shortage of adventure on this trip!
The "Volunteer" portion of the trip was my favorite. It began with fundraising for the materials required to build homes and ended with smiles, hugs and tears when we had to leave the community members. This experience is incredibly rewarding and I would recommend the trip based on the volunteer aspect alone. It was especially meaningful this summer as the trip came right after an earthquake destroyed the coast of Ecuador and the already rural and poverty stricken communities had their homes, even if they were simple, taken away from them. The damage done, even after most of the clean up, was evident and I'm glad I had the chance to do something small to help.
I don't want to give away anything about the additional week in Galapagos but it was amazing! If you are planning on staying 28 days you should definitely add on 7 more to visit the Galapagos!

How can this program be improved?
As a few other students suggested I would say to prepare the students better for the weather in Quito. They said it would be cool at night so I was prepared for that but thought it would be hot and humid during the day. In Quito and other places we traveled throughout Ecuador it was comfortably warm during the day but by no means hot; however, along the coast and in the amazon it was extremely hot and humid. I went from freezing cold one day to boiling hot the next so be ready to pack a wide variety of clothes for the trip!

HLD in no way promotes the consumption of alcohol (especially in large quantities) but the age of students and the nature of the trip gives the opportunity for students to go out to a various bars and clubs to experience the Ecuadorian nightlife and some students take full advantage of this freedom. As someone who does not drink I still enjoyed going out and did not feel pressured to drink but the constant consumption of a variety of alcohol drinks in large quantities got old very fast, especially when students continually exceed their personal alcohol limit.
There was of course a ban on alcohol consumption during medical rotations but I wish the evenings while on tour could have been less focused on drinking and more on exploring and enjoying the Ecuador nightlife without being surrounded by fellow HLD students who are drunk. Perhaps though some students really enjoyed this aspect of the trip and it may just be a matter of personal preference.
Yes, I recommend this program

HLD Till I Die

This has been a life changing experience for myself.

At first I was apprehensive about taking part of this program - I am used to backpacking and travelling on my own and doing my own thing. Being with a bunch of other people seemed intimidating at first. But those fears quickly vanished - the week of touring was a blast and everyday topped the previous one as the 'coolest day ever'! I did the 17 day premedical program (I couldn't take more time off from work or school) and my only regret was not staying longer.

We were the first group to make it to Jama - the recent earthquake prevented the previous groups this year were not able to go. Working alongside the community was the most rewarding experience I could ever ask for. I will never forget this experience.

Life long friendships were created with Jose, Juan, and the rest of our group. We travelled with Jose for the majority of the tour and volunteer weeks, and he consistently put our wellbeing at the forefront.

Read my review, read my fellow HLDers - this experience will stick with you forever.

How can this program be improved?
I totally enjoyed the surprises, but maybe a heads-up, or some clues on what to pack would be helpful!
Yes, I recommend this program

About Ecuaexperience

Help, Learn and Discover is an innovative organization offering educational programs in Ecuador, South America. We strive to offer a fulfilling life experience which combines helping those less fortunate with learning about a specific academic area...